It’s difficult to articulate, but electric cars, in general, fail to pull at the driving public’s collective heart strings. Technologically impressive as they may be, there’s an “it” factor that just isn’t there. The Honda E is here to change that.
True, there are a few electric supercars on the horizon that promise in the neighbourhood of 1000 horsepower, along with swoopy, sexy looks – but even these electro-chemical performance bombs fail to excite from afar. There are no electric supercar posters getting plastered on bedroom walls.
Tesla has captured the minds and wallets of a niche group of techno-focused early adopters, but most of the buying public are indifferent to Musk’s wheeled products, and a significant subset actually despise Teslas – not so much for what they are than for what they’re percieved to represent.
And that brings us to Honda’s first fully-fledged effort in the electric car sphere. It’s lovable in an unassuming kind of way. It’s not trying to be something it’s not, or pack politics in its hind quarters. It could rival the family pet in terms of adorability. In the world of EVs, it’s something entirely different.
We’re greeted with a simplistic shape, smooth and devoid of apurtenances. The Honda E even eschews side mirrors, with camera winglets in their place. Without straying into the cliché, Honda’s EV dons retro cues that harken back to its earliest compact cars. No wonder it appears friendly and familiar.
That said, the E is unapologetically futuristic. This vehicle’s interior makes a Model S appear outdated, with sharp high-resolution screens laid horizontally across the dash. A walk-through flat floor design enhances the feeling of spaciousness from within. Say, “Okay Honda,” and the Honda Personal Assistant application will do its best to assist, using “unique contextual understanding to create natural conversations and provide access to a range of online services.”
Honda’s designers chose melange-style sofa fabrics for the seat coverings, bathing occupants in at-home comfort and style. Here again the E gives the impression it isn’t trying too hard, it’s just trying to make you comfortable.
“There are many different cars on the road, but I think a warm, comforting design is what’s missing from modern cars,” said Fumihiro Yaguchi, Honda E interior designer. “If the occupant has a warm feeling, there’s less stress and that can contribute to a more enriched society. Making the shape of a car, is the same as designing people’s feelings.”
Naysayers will claim the Honda E’s 220 kilometer driving range is insufficient, and in the world of suburban or rural commutes, its 35.5 kWh battery pack may well not be sufficient. But to write-off the E on its driving range would be missing the point. Honda has aimed its electric car at the urban environment, wherein most studies have concluded that 160 kilometers of daily driving range is more than adequate.
Sweetening the deal whilst assuaging range-anxiety, Honda has equipped its E with quick-charge technology that allows a high-voltage charger to bump battery reserves to 80% of capacity within 30 minutes, adding another 177 kilometers of range. The thought of settling into a café for half an hour is neither foreign nor offensive to urbanites.
Yet the Honda E’s main appeal is likely to be found in its driving dynamics. Unlike most compact electric car competitors, the Honda features a rear-wheel drive architecture, which will bestow it with playful, fun-to-drive antics.
Outright performance will be modest – Honda claims a 0-60 mph time of around 8 seconds – but once again, the E is a car that’s centered on how it makes you feel rather than numerical bragging rights. Zipping through the urban zoo with playful, balanced handling will provide more smiles per mile, according to Honda’s philosphy.
And zip you shall, with 154 horsepower (113 kW) and 232 pound-feet of torque on tap at the rear wheels. Honda has achieved a 50:50 weight distribution, and so long as its stability control system can be defeated, the E should have a flare for sideways driving techniques on wet or snow-covered roads.
Perhaps the only dissapointing aspect of the Honda E is its availability. The Japanese automaker has chosen to kick off sales in Europe and Asia, so North American buyers will have to look on with desire from across the pond.
Regardless, the Honda E has captured something no other electric car has: our hearts.
We hope to drive it in due course, and given its warm reception across the globe, we suspect it will eventually make it to our shores. If we had to venture a guess, we’d say the E will be frequenting the streets of Toronto, Chicago and Mexico City in five years or less.
The Honda E will start at £26,160 in the U.K., which is just over $44,000 CAD, or $33,000 USD.
[Photo and source credit: Honda]